Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts

University of Glasgow – Professor Alison Phipps

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For millions of the world’s displaced people, their painful journey does not end when they gain refugee status.

Although it can be full of surprise, relief and joy in new things and possibilities, the huge transformation required to adapt to life in a new host country can also be confusing, lonely and traumatic. The University of Glasgow’s Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (RILA) is responding to this global crisis by researching, pioneering and sharing creative ways to foster integration and empower all members of new communities, where refugees live, to flourish, together.


?  Culture
?  Education
?  Arts


UNESCO Chair on Peace and Tolerance through Languages and Civic Education




“The scale of the refugee crisis worldwide requires innovative responses and radical action. I hope to make a tangible contribution through my role as UNESCO Chair and deliver projects which make a real difference to the lives of refugees and their communities.”

Professor Alison Phipps

UNESCO Chairs are based within Institutes for Higher Education and specialise in specific research fields. They provide policy advice to the UK National Commission for UNESCO and HM government, as well as reviewing UNESCO applications.


With the number of displaced people across the globe reaching over 70 million in 2019, the programme could not be more relevant or more vital. Under the conditions created by the global pandemic it has been clear that refugees have an understanding, resilience and bearing which societies spared from significant crisis have not yet fostered or practiced.

Led by Professor Alison Phipps, the Chair’s team of six is pioneering a series of research projects, residencies and events which place language and the arts at the heart of refugee integration. Their aim is to work with refugees, artists, NGOs, policy-makers and governments to enhance existing models for refugee integration and address issues around cultural diversity and languages.

Three volunteer ambassadors from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds are gaining skills in project management, communication, networking, people management and innovation. Encouraged to start their own projects designed to meet the needs of ‘New Scots’ the Ambassadors have initiated English classes for Arabic speakers, started a youth group and developed multi-lingual self-discovery writing sessions.Two artists in residence from the global south are also working to enable mutual integration and translation between communities and through the arts


Alison’s research has contributed to a range of projects with the chair through collaborations with partners spanning Zimbabwe, Palestine, Ghana, Mexico and Morocco. The RILA team carries out research that includes network building through arts and cultural work in communities experiencing tensions and fragility; collaborating with Coventry University and the Migration for Development and Equality hub (MIDEQ) to examine how South-South migration can be harnessed to reduce inequality and expanding the reach of an online Arabic course to help reduce unemployment among young graduates in Gaza.

One such example of Professor Phipps’ research is the annual ‘Refugee Cycle’ where refugees, migrants and local communities are brought together. Partnering with Sustrans and Bike for Good, this role-reversing event gives refugees the chance to act as hosts, welcoming cyclists to each stop along the route. Refugees help to plan the cycle and take part as check-point assistants, performers and educators.

Professor Alison Phipps

Based in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow, Professor Alison Phipps is a renowned expert with a career that has spanned the globe and work that has influenced government policy and featured in the Edinburgh Festival.

Professor Phipps currently chairs the New Scots Core Group for Refugee Integration in partnership with the Scottish Government and is an Ambassador for the Scottish Refugee Council. She is also a Commissioner with the Poverty Truth Commission, Scotland and an Advisor to the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Ethiopia.

In addition to her academic roles, Alison was a senior policy advisor to the British Council from 2007-2014 and has also advised the Red Cross, Church of Scotland and the Scottish, UK and European Parliaments. Determined to keep the voices of refugees heard, in 2015 Alison designed and led a witness-bearing five-day visit with members of the Home Affairs and Justice Select Committee to Calais and Dunkirk refugee camps.


University of Glasgow

Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies


#Role at UNESCO

Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow

SINCE 2017



Read about some of the many projects that Professor Phipps is involved in.



Alison teaches refugee studies, critical multilingual studies, religious and spiritual education, anthropology and intercultural education and education for non-violence. Read about her research further, below.


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“Refugee integration through languages and arts directly relates to UNESCO’s mission to achieve peace through cultural literacy, is integral to the wider UN mandate to support refugees and contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.”

Professor Alison Phipps


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